Beshalach - The Mahn and Its Incredile Significance

שם שם לו חק ומשפט  טו:כה

Rashi brings the well known Chazal that this pasuk is reffering to the few mitzvos that Klal Yisrael was given already in Marah: Shabbos, Parah Adumah, and Dinin.  The parsha that immediately follows this is parshas ha’mahn.  After Klal Yisrael left Marah, moved on to Eilim, and then travelled to Midbar Sin on the fifteenth of Iyar, they complained about lack of food, and that is when they began receiving the mahn.  It emerges, then, that the chronological order between Shabbos and the mahn is that they first got Shabbos, and almost a month later began receiving the mahn.

Interestingly enough, though, the Haggadah seems to reverse it.  In Dayeinu, the stanza reads, “Ilu heh’ehchilanu es ha’mahn v’lo nasan lanu es ha’Shabbos, dayeinu.  If Hashem would have fed us the mahn and not given us Shabbos, it would have been enough for us.”  In as much as Dayeinu follows the chronological order of how events took place, this would seem to indicate that we started getting the mahn before we were given Shabbos.  But, as was just delineated above, this is clearly not the case!

שם שם לו חק ומשפט  טו:כה

Rashi brings the well known Chazal that this pasuk is referring to the few mitzvos that Klal Yisrael was given already in Marah: Shabbos, Parah Adumah, and Dinin.  The parsha that immediately follows this is parshas ha’mahn.  After Klal Yisrael left Marah, moved on to Eilim, and then traveled to Midbar Sin on the fifteenth of Iyar, they complained about lack of food, and that is when they began receiving the mahn.  It emerges, then, that the chronological order between Shabbos and the mahn is that they first got Shabbos, and almost a month later began receiving the mahn.

Interestingly enough, though, the Haggadah seems to reverse it.  In Dayeinu, the stanza reads, “Ilu heh’ehchilanu es ha’mahn v’lo nasan lanu es ha’Shabbos, dayeinu.  If Hashem would have fed us the mahn and not given us Shabbos, it would have been enough for us.”  In as much as Dayeinu follows the chronological order of how events took place, this would seem to indicate that we started getting the mahn before we were given Shabbos.  But, as was just delineated above, this is clearly not the case!

In parshas Breishis (2:3), the pasuk says, “And the Almighty blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it,” and Rashi explains: “He blessed it with mahn in that…a double portion came down on the sixth day, and He sanctified it with mahn in that the mahn did not come down at all on Shabbos.”  One cannot help but wonder what exactly this is supposed to mean.  Did the bracha and kedusha of Shabbos apply and last for only forty years minus one month?!  Was it only during the era of eating the mahn that Klal Yisrael merited the bracha and kedusha of Shabbos?!

Obviously, it is unavoidable to understand that what this means is that what happened with the mahn was one, specific manifestation of the bracha and kedusha of Shabbos.  An outstanding manifestation of that bracha and kedusha, but not that the bracha and kedusha of Shabbos was only during the time period of the mahn.  Of course, the bracha and kedusha of Shabbos is intrinsic, permanent, and eternal, from the time of creation and on.

Nevertheless, if Chazal selected what happened with the mahn as the prototypical expression of the bracha and kedusha of Shabbos, we are clearly meant to learn something from that.  What we see from this – in quite an overt way – is that the bracha of Shabbos does not begin to take effect on Shabbos itself.  The double portion of mahn came down on Erev Shabbos, and that, as Rashi brought from Chazal, is the outstanding expression of the bracha of Shabbos.  That means that the bracha of Shabbos begins already on Erev Shabbos.  The bracha of Shabbos is not limited within the confines of the twenty four hours of Shabbos itself, but spreads outward.  And not only into the time of tosefes Shabbos when an individual or community has already accepted Shabbos, but even beginning from the morning of Erev Shabbos.

This we can see from the mitzvah of v’heichinu, preparing for Shabbos.  Part of the parshas ha’mahn is that Klal Yisrael was told that they need to prepare for Shabbos.  And this mitzvah of preparation begins right from the morning.  That means that the ripple effects of the special kedusha of Shabbos are already present from the morning of Erev Shabbos.  In a similar vein, we find that someone who is buried on Erev Shabbos is spared from chibut ha’kever.

Already beginning from the morning of Erev Shabbos, we occupy a different realm.  A different system.  This is something that we can and should take full advantage of.  Just as the teffilos we say on Shabbos are infused of a totally unique character, we likewise have the ability to utilize the kedusha that spreads into Erev Shabbos to daven in a way that is more exalted than the rest of the week.  Whether this opportunity begins from Maariv of Thursday night, I a not sure; but from Shachris of Friday morning, for sure.

In parshas Eikev 8:3, the pasuk refers to the mahn as that which “lo yad’un avosecha, your ancestors did not know.”  Rabbeinu Bachayei explains that this is to be understood in accordance with what the pasuk says in the beginning of parshas Va’eirah that the Avos only knew the name Keil Shakay but not the sheim Havayah.  Of course, they were aware of the sheim Havayah (as is explicit in numerous pesukim), and what that pasuk is saying is that they did not experience the Divine Providence which is expressed through the sheim Havayah.  Namely, a form of Providence wherein all the rules of natural law are completely irrelevant.

For the Avos, nature was bent, twisted, and turned – completely manipulated for their sake.  They certainly had miraculous Providence, but it nevertheless was not in a form of absolute abnegation of natural law.  That is what the name Keil Shakay indicates, that Hashem manipulates nature in order to bring about the results that He wills.

Sheim Havayah, though, represents a completely different level.  The realm of ein od milvado, wherein it is expressed that the only true reality is the existence of the Infinite One.  In that realm, as it were, all natural law becomes completely and utterly irrelevant, and the only thing that exists is the will of the Almighty.

There is a pasuk (Tehillim 78:25) that says, “lechem abirim achal ish, a man ate the bread of the bold.”  Chazal reveal to us that this is a reference to the mahn that Klal Yisrael ate in the Midbar for forty years.  And who are the abirim, the bold ones?  The malachim.  For forty years, Klal Yisrael was sustained by the very same spiritual substance that sustains the malachim.  It’s true that there is a machlokes between the Tannaim about this point, but that it is only insofar as the specific embodiment of the mahn is concerned.  One opinion holds that it was entirely spiritual “matter”, whereas the other holds that it had a tangible form, albeit exceedingly refined and subtle.

But all agree that the sustenance of the mahn had zero to do with the normal rules of carbohydrates, proteins, and so on.  There was none of that.  The normal, physical rules of food biology and chemistry were completely inapplicable to the mahn.  The sustenance was a spiritual sustenance, totally outside of the normal rules of nature.  It was an expression of the special Divine Providence of the sheim Havayah.

אל יצא איש ממקומו ביום השביעי     טז:כט

This pasuk is one of the sources of the issur hotzaah, the prohibition on Shabbos against carrying objects from a public domain to a private domain and vice versa.  The Rishonim call the melacha of hotzaah a melacha gruah, a “lowly” melachaHotzaah is a prohibited activity that doesn’t have all that much “meat” to it, and is almost like a gzeirasha’kasuv, one of the rules that Hashem has decreed that is basically incomprehensible to us (as the Rishonim say, it is difficult to understand why moving an object from a public domain to a private domain [and vice versa] is much different from moving an object from one private domain to another private domain).

The melacha of hotzaah has more pages of Gemara devoted to its elaboration than any other of the 39 melachos.  Far more.  There are numerous prohibitions that have but a few lines, but hotzaah has tens of dapim.  Although not a kushya, this is certainly striking!

Now, what was the primary manifestation of the prohibition against carrying on Shabbos in the Midbar?  Not going to get the mahn.  This is clear from the pesukim.  Hashem told Moshe to tell Klal Yisrael that the mahn will not fall on Shabbos, and that everyone should “stay put” and not “go out”, which, as mentioned above, is a source for the melacha of hotzaah.

This is very much in line with that which Rashi brings in Breishis that when the pasuk says that Hashem imbued kedusha into the day of Shabbos, it is a reference to the fact that the mahn did not fall on Shabbos.  As is clear from many sugyos, when we speak of the kedusha of Shabbos, Yomtov, and so on, the primary manfistation of that kedusha is in terms of the relative degree of forbidden acitivities.  Shabbos, as Chazal say, has more prohibitions than Yomtov, and thus has more kedusha.  So the kedusha of the mahn not falling on Shabbos is an expression of the prohibition of hotzaah.

It emerges, then, that it is the prohibition of transferring things from one type of domain to another – the melacha of hotzaah – that was chosen as the prototypical expression of the kedusha of Shabbos.  Again, this is striking indeed!

It is brought down from the Arizal that the entirety of creation is divided into two main domains.  These two domains are the “public domain” and the “private domain”.  Halachikally, a private domain is defined by the minimum dimensions of four tefachim (square width) by ten tefachim (height).  Four is the number of letters, elaborate the Sefarim, of the sheimos of Havayah and Adnus, and ten is the miluy of the sheim Havayah.  What this means, in a general sense, is that the “private domain” is the domain of Yechido shel Olam, the One unique Being.  It is the domain, as it were, of Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu.  The “public domain”, on the other hand, is the realm in which exist all the “wild animals”, the forces of impurity that are manifest in all the mazikin and marin bishin (damaging entities, both physical and spiritual) that occupy that domain.

Rav Chaim Volozhiner said that all the words of the Arizal can be understood metaphorically.  So, on our level, let’s try to understand this.

During the six days of the work-week, the boundaries of the two domains are not so clear.  To a great extent, we occupy a karmelis, a domain that is part “private” and part “public”.  We don’t necessarily know exactly where we are at any given time.  And sometimes people have to be in the literal public domain which most strongly manifests the metaphysical “public domain” which is riddled with all types of physical and spiritual pitfalls.

On Shabbos, though, the “private domain” expands and there emerges a big, clear separation of the respective domains.  On Shabbos the dominant feature in the universe is the “private domain”.  The universe enters, as it were, the domain of Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu, which is open only for Klal Yisrael. The prohibition against transferring from the private domain to the public domain and vice versa, is indicative of the need to avoid moving things from the metaphysical “private domain” to the metaphysical “public domain” and vice versa.  To take something from the domain of kedusha and move it to the domain of tumah, or vice versa, is a desecration of the kedusha.

This awareness is what the mahn brought to us.

And it is critical to realize that, on the metaphysical plane, there is no particular measurement of this separation of domains.  There always exists the opportunity to go further and further into the inner chambers of the “private domain” of Ha’Kadosh Baruch Hu on Shabbos.

Shabbos is the time to separate oneself from the “public domain”.  On Shabbos, everything – literally everything – is Shabbosdik.  We dress differently, we act differently, we speak differently.  On Shabbos there is no “good morning”, but “gut Shabbos”.  We don’t say “good night”, we say “gut Shabbos”.  Even the words of teffilah are different on Shabbos; and not only in terms of the text we recite, but even insofar as the avodah sheh’b’leiv, the devotion of the heart is concerned.

One last point to mention on this topic is that a talmid chacham is a manifestation of the kedusha of Shabbos all week long.  Bnei Torah can and should strive to occupy the realm of the “private domain”, and be separated from the “public domain” all week long.  There can and should be clear, recognizable partitions that obviate the possibility of transferring from one domain to the other.  Bnei Torah, more than anyone else, belong to the realm which is kulo kodesh.

אשירה לה' כי גאה גאה    טו:א

The pasuk in Tehillim (13:6) states, ”V’ani b’chasdecha vatachti yagel libi bishuasecha ashirah la’Hashem ki gamal alai, and I have trusted in Your kindness, my heart will rejoice in Your salvation, I will sing to Hashem because He has bestowed [salvation] upon me.” Dovid ha’melech confirms his faith in Hashem’s salvation. The grammatical structure of this pasuk is somewhat perplexing. The first half of the pasuk is obviously an expression of the deep sense of trust that Dovid ha’melech had in Hashem even before Hashem saved him from his troubles, because the entire concept of trust in a salvation only makes sense before the salvation comes to fruition. If the salvation has already occurred, though, one doesn’t need faith or trust! However, the pasuk’s continuation - that Dovid rejoiced in his heart about Hashem’s salvation - is formulated in the present tense. Finally, the pasuk concludes with the words “ki gamal alai, for He has bestowed upon me”. This last segment of the pasuk is presented in the past tense, seemingly referring to a situation wherein the salvation has already taken place. So when  is it that Dovid ha’melech is rejoicing in his heart? Is it before or after the salvation?! If it is prior to the salvation taking place, then it is not consistent with the end of the pasuk that Dovid will sing praise after he gets saved; and if it is talking about after Dovid got saved, then why is the former segment written in the present tense?

The Emek Bracha (pg.124) cites an explanation from the Brisker Rav in the name of the latter’s father, Reb Chaim Brisker: due to Dovid ha’melech’s lofty level of trust in Hashem, he already felt jubilant in his heart even while still in need of the salvation. However, to actually express that jubilation in the form of singing praise to Hashem, for that bitachon (trust) is not enough. Prior to the actual salvation, it is not yet in place to actually express shirah (song of praise) to Hashem. The salvation has to actually come; only then is it appropriate to sing praise to Hashem. Accordingly, the pasuk is referring to both stages of the salvation process, before and after. The first half of the pasuk is saying that Dovid’s faith was so great that he was already rejoicing in his heart in anticipation of the salvation. However, the song of praise and gratitude was only sung after Dovid actually experienced the salvation.

Interestingly enough, from my grandfather (Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik), I heard a different explanation of this pasuk, also in the name of his grandfather, Reb Chaim Brisker! The way I heard it, is that Reb Chaim said even shirah can be appropriate despite the salvation having not yet occurred. Accordingly, the entire pasuk is talking about what Dovid felt and did before the salvation. Dovid rejoiced in his heart and also sang out to Hashem lyrics of praise. So then why does the end of the pasuk speak in the past tense, as though the salvation has already occurred? Because Dovid sang to Hashem as if he had already been saved. For Dovid ha’melech, his bitachon was so strong, that it was as if the salvation had already occurred, such that he could even express his rejoicing in concrete song and praise!

This amazing chiddush (novel thought or idea) – namely, that the bitachon has the power to bring a person to a level wherein he can sing praises to Hashem as if the salvation has already happened - has many sources and proofs.

For example, there is the Rashi in Tehillim (18:4) on the pasuk that says, “mehulal ekrah Hashem umin oyvai ivasheiah, with praises I call unto Hashem, and I will be saved from my enemies.” Rashi explains that Dovid ha’melech said Hallel before he was delivered from his enemies because he had absolute trust that Hashem would extricate him from his predicament. Rashi clearly states that, as a result of bitachon, it is appropriate to sing praise even before the salvation actually occurs.

The primary substantiation for the concept of being able to say shirah even before the miracle takes place is from our parsha. The Targum Yonason, and, even more clearly, the Mechilta (14:13-14) records an interchange between the Jewish People and Moshe Rabbeinu. Standing at the edge of the sea, the People asked Moshe Rabbeinu what they should do? To which Moshe responded, “you should praise Hashem and sing shirah to Him as it says, ashirah la’Hashem ki gaoh gaah.” The implication, clearly, is that Klal Yisrael sang at least part of the shirah of Az Yashir before the sea split.

Even if we accept the more traditional understanding of the sequence of events that occurred at the Splitting of the Sea, namely that Klal Yisrael sang shirah only after the sea split and they emerged therefrom, there is still a proof for this concept from a comment of the Shelah ha’kadosh. The Shelah writes that the way of tzaddikim is that, once Hashem promises them something good, they immediately sing shirah and praise to Hashem. This practice of tzaddikim, elaborates the Shelah, is contingent on their level of bitachon in Hashem. Because Klal Yisrael’s faith and trust in Hashem wasn’t yet so strong at that point, they only sang shirah after Hashem brought His promise to fruition and saved them from the pursuing Egyptians. However, concludes the Shelah, when the tidings of Mashiach’s imminent arrival will be announced, at that point Klal Yisrael’s level of emunah and bitachon will be on such a level that they will sing shirah immediately, even before Mashiach actually arrives! (From Reb Chaim Rosen)


Quotables    “As much as the desire to dwell in the house of Hashem all my life is embedded in every fiber of my being, so too should it be for you as well, and even more!” (Said to a talmid on Purim)


Vignettes     “I was one of the many talmidim that merited to have a once a week chavrusah with Rav Twersky. Spanning almost eleven years, this weekly, private learning session lasted until the last week of Rav Twersky’s life. Over the course of those eleven years, we learned many different subjects. Sometimes we learned Gemara. Most of the time we learned various writings of the Maharal. During Elul, we usually learned selected sections of Shaarei Teshuvah. 

Rav Meshulam Twersky, Rav Twersky’s eldest son, got married right in the beginning of Cheshvan 5765 (2004). The first time we learned together that zman was 6 Cheshvan (October 21st). Rav Twersky entered the room, and said, “Let’s learn Mesilas Yesharim.” Under his breath, I heard him add, “I have to keep afloat.” I expected that we would start from the beginning, but I was in for a surprise. Rav Twersky said, “Everyone starts from the beginning, but let’s start from perek 13.” That chapter is the one that addresses the topic of perishus, distancing oneself from materialism. Quite deep into the Ramchal’s progression of climbing the ladder of avodas Hashem! My feeling at the time was that is where Rav Twersky was up to in his personal avodah, and he was letting me “come along for the ride”. We learned to nearly the end of the sefer. 

In the middle of perek 18, which deals with midas ha’chassidus (piety), the Ramchal explains that a truly devoted, pious individual will do whatever is in his power to give nachas to Hashem. The truly devoted and pious individual extends himself to the utmost in every mitzvah in every possible way. When we read this, Rav twersky got excited, saying, “You know, lots of people are particular to fulfill the mitzvah of dalet minim (lulav & esrog, etc.) by picking up multiple sets of varying angles of hiddur. And they settle with simply picking each set up. Nobody does proper naanuim (shaking in the different directions) on every set. But, I heard that Rav Shimshon Pincus not only does naanium with every set of dalet minim, he also does the hakafos (circling the bimah)!” 

Hakafos is just a minhag. Rav Pincus wanted to fulfill the mitzvah of dalet minim in the most mehudar way possible, so he took many sets. But that itself wasn’t enough for him. Even on these extra sets, he didn’t forgo doing naanuim, and would not even overlook the minhag aspect of the mitzvah of doing hakafos. Rav Twersky told me this anecdote with such emotion. I felt there was something very deep behind Rav Twersky’s fondness of this story. On the spot, I jotted what down what he said on the side of my Mesilas Yesharim so I wouldn’t forget it.

After Rav Twersky was killed al Kiddush Hashem, I got a glimpse of what may have been going through his mind when he was telling me this story. Reb Avraham Twersky, Rav Twersky’s youngest child, disclosed to us a secret. He told us that Rav Twersky requested and received special permission to do proper naanuim on Rav Meir Berlin’s many mehudar sets of dalet minim. After davening, Rav Twersky would go into a side room, and without any publicity or fanfare, would do full naanuim with each set. Rav Twersky’s love of the mitzvah prompted him to go the extra mile to do proper naanuim on each set. It seems to me that Rav Twersky was so impressed by Rav Pincus for “outdoing him”. Rav Pincus’s behavior of being particular to do even the hakafos with each set not only didn’t generate jealousy in Rav Twersky, it was just the opposite: it gave Rav Twersky true respect and admiration for a higher level of love for doing mitzvos!” (Reb Chaim Rosen)

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